Can Droid Compete with iPhone's Pure Sex Appeal?

A number of hardware and software comparisons have been made between the iPhone and the Droid smartphone, but one telling difference that might matter more is something less tangible, involving Apple fanaticism and the iPhone's two-year-plus market lead over the Droid.

As IDC analyst Ramon Llamas put it : Does the Droid have the tech "lust" factor that has built up around the iPhone?

"Yes, I said lust," Llamas said in an interview today. "If you look at the Apple iPhone, whatever version, what makes it so special is not just the product, but what Apple generates at the end of the experience. It's really product lust ... Apple is a cult."

Llamas said Apple has built a cult-like following over many years, with simple and easy to use MacBooks and iPod products. It also includes retail stores that are clean, well-polished and shiny and a friendly workers. "In the TV show The Simpsons' take on the Apple store, they are shown as sterile, but also robust and spiffy, and the iPhone device experience lives up to that image."

Llamas said of the iPhone, "I haven't seen this much lust for a wireless device since the first Motorola Razr device of 2005. Now four years later, all we hear is the iPhone."

Gartner Inc. analyst Ken Dulaney agreed that the Apple faithful are a serious consideration in how well the iPhone competes with the Droid. He added that the iPhone's two-plus years on the market have not been diminished, despite problems with the iPhone's exclusive carrier in the U.S., AT&T.

"iPhone users are loyal to Apple , and they have been suffering with an [AT&T] network that's had coverage and capacity issues for a while," Dulaney wrote in an e-mail. "They have not left and won't [for the Droid on Verizon Wireless] in my opinion."

Neither Dulaney nor Llamas has tested the Droid, which goes on sale Nov. 6 , and the number of analysts who have used it so far is small. But many observers can still make important distinctions, including the most glaring one -- that the Droid has a physical keyboard as well as a touchscreen keyboard, while the iPhone has a touchscreen only.

Dulaney said Droid "is a bit like Motorola Cliq but with more capability." He said he was surprised that the Droid leaves out the Motoblur capability that Motorola emphasized so heavily in the Cliq. Motoblur is an Internet-based service that integrates information from users' contacts on a variety of social-networking services.

In sum, Dulaney said the Droid won't have "much chance getting iPhone users over to Verizon," but it could hurt BlackBerry Storm sales at Verizon.

Which leads back to the Apple loyalty question. Is there anything like that "lust factor" within the Android camp behind the Droid? There is a camp of open source developers who are thrilled to have the Droid as another device that works with Android. They are also keenly aware of Android's connection to Google and the search company's potential ability to marshal resources for cloud computing services that could be used to quickly access the Droid and other Android phones.

So far, much of Google's impact on Droid, and even that of Motorola and Verizon, has been in advertising that brags about what the iPhone lacks.

Llamas said the Droid will offer a rich user experience that could rival the iPhone's. "You have to take everything that Motorola and Verizon say about Droid with a grain of salt, but what's obvious is that Droid is not the first-timer's smartphone and is really for somebody who wants to invest time, money and energy in the smartphone experience. It offers multiple panels and widgets and is not for somebody who wants to just text and make phone calls."

So to observers like Llamas, it's too soon to tell whether the public will develop a yearning for the Droid. "Is there product lust for Droid yet? I don't know. The arena is relatively young," he said.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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